Flat vs. Deep Architecture in Shopify

Did you know that how your website is designed from the user’s perspective affects both SEO performance and conversion rates? The simplest way to understand this truth is to consider how much effort your customers have to go through to make a purchase. The more difficult you make it, the less likely customers will actually buy from you. And the less they buy, the less traffic they generate.

Shopify Architecture
Kimon Maritz

In the SEO world, what we are talking about here is the user experience. User experience is especially critical to retail sites due to the intense competition of e-commerce. Online retailers cannot just assume that customers will buy from them simply because they visit. For every site that sells your products, there are dozens of additional competitors selling the same products at comparable prices. Therefore, customers have to have a reason to buy.

All that introduction is to say this: the best user experience in an e-commerce environment is based on flat architecture rather than deep. Both are explained below. If your Shopify site is currently based on deep architecture, we strongly suggest you consider a do-over that transitions to flat architecture.

What Is Flat Architecture?

The architecture of any website is the actual structure of menus, sub-menus, content, etc. Think of flat architecture as a large tract of land covered by individual, detached houses. It is easy to find your friends who just moved into one of those houses simply by looking up the address.

A website built with flat architecture has a minimal number of layers that visitors have to move through. Three layers are generally considered the maximum for flat architecture. Under this model, web developers create a hierarchy that consists of many main categories populated by multiple subcategories. Developers create as many categories and subcategories as necessary to link to all content without exceeding three levels.

What Is Deep Architecture?

A good way to think of deep architecture is to envision that same tract of land with just three or four high-rises instead of detached houses. The high-rises make less use of the available land, so things do not look as cluttered, but all the residents are now confined to fewer buildings. Finding your friend is suddenly a lot more difficult.

Deep architecture in the web development world exceeds the three layers of flat architecture in order to keep online spaces clean and uncluttered. The trade-off is a website that could be five or six layers deep. The problem with deep architecture is that it makes finding information more difficult. This is something you definitely cannot afford in e-commerce.

Deep architecture may work well for some kinds of sites with a large amount of complex information. It is bad for e-commerce. The best way to maximize your Shopify site from an architecture standpoint is to use flat architecture. Make your products easy to find and you’ll also make them easier to buy. This will increase your SEO performance and conversion rates over time.

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